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May 5, 2004

I think everyone has an answer or a story. Interested parties everywhere seem to know what happened last week when former Cavalier football player Jamaine Winborne took a bullet in the leg from an engineering student who for some reason hated football players. There was a party…there wasn’t a party, there was drinking…there wasn’t drinking…I dunno…maybe a cast member from the Sopranos showed up. There has been a boatload of speculation, but then again, that’s what happens when you wear a shirt that has a number and your name on the back.

Back to Football Law and Order in a moment.

A week prior to the football incident, UVA basketball player T.J. Bannister was attempting to leave a non-alcoholic party because a fight had broken out. Bannister, a first year from Jacksonville, Florida, took heed from head coach Pete Gillen. Walk away from a situation, don’t put your self in harm’s way. Ignore any comment thrown your way that can be construed as an instigation…all directions Pete has given to his kids a thousand times during any given season. As Bannister was leaving with two other players, he was jumped by a group of five other students. Defending himself, T.J. scuffled to try and save his hide. Before he knew it, he was face down on the pavement being handcuffed and arrested for disorderly conduct. Talk about wearing a bull’s eye. T.J. Bannister is one of the great student athletes attending Virginia. His father, Tony, coaches for a Christian youth group called Young Christians in Action Youth Sports in Jacksonville. He taught T.J. to respect his elders, his coaches, his professors and his fellow students. Bannister has never answered a question from me without saying “no sir”, or “yes sir”. The whole incident got thrown out in court and Bannister has learned a lesson. Never leave your dorm room. Attend Virginia, go to class, go to practice, and hang around only fellow basketball players. T.J. should absolutely enjoy his college experience in Charlottesville.

Returning to the fracas regarding Winborne, quarterback Marques Hagans, Kenneth Tynes, and Brandon Lee. I have heard several different versions from that night near the North Grounds area and only the people involved, or the students in attendance, can give an accurate play-by-play. We do know a 23 year-old UVA engineering student appeared at the party, apparently made remarks about “killing people”, brandished a firearm, and began shooting at the ground and the sky. Winborne got hit in the leg, some say by ricochet, and a post semester celebration allegedly turned into chaos.

Tynes, a rising second year from Clifton, Virginia who was moved to safety last year and only played in three games, vaulted a chair through a window. The other players including Lee, also a rising second year who didn’t play but suited up for six home games, and Hagans, were told to disperse and leave the scene. Their wishes were to stay with a fallen teammate. After arguing with campus police and refusing to leave, they were arrested on a disorderly conduct charge. Tynes got a vandalism charge put next to his social security number. Hagans and Lee were charged with disorderly conduct. Yesterday, Hagans and Lee were given a continuance until June 1st and Tynes until May 21st. A reporter friend of mine, and someone who covers episodes like this thought all three players would receive a small fine and some community service work.

Speaking last week in Northern Virginia at the annual Tysons Corner Virginia Athletics Foundation social, Wahoo head football coach Al Groh got the question. We all knew it was coming, so we were all anxious to hear the answer.

“What is your take on what happened last night at North Grounds?”

Groh was stoic and professional with his answer. He explained to the crowd of nearly 300 that as soon as all of us start reporting in public things that happen to our families, he would do the same with “his family”.

“I will tell you this though,” Groh remarked. “My guys were not the catalysts of this disturbance. And at the appropriate time I will speak publicly about it.”

Stay tuned.

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